Monday, December 17, 2012

In Response to Newtown

Friends,
As part of his seminary preparation our Youth Director Ryan Heatherly has written a paper in the form of two letters to address the age-old question: Why does God allow suffering and evil in this world. One letter is addressed to the Christian believer and the other to the agnostic or doubter. These letters can be accessed with the links above left and above right. Ryan would appreciate your response as together we address our grief, our questions and our concerns.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Love or Law?

Our scripture lesson Sunday was Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23.  I posed a significant question that I heard discussed recently:  Would you prefer a next-door neighbor, a good friend, your husband or wife, or your son or daughter to be persons of excellent habits or to have a good heart?

While it would certainly be preferable to have a neighbor who would respect your property while caring for their own and to have a friend who is courteous and a spouse who is gracious and a child who uses good manners--none of these can compare to having any one of these who have a good heart.

It has been said that when we discuss habits or behavior, we are discussing the quality of someone's self-control.  When we discuss a good heart, we are discussing the quality of the person.

Our scripture shows the pharisees trying to catch Jesus out in this area.  His disciples came in dirty and famished and forgot the ritual of hand washing--not hand washing for bacteria's sake, but hand washing for religious purity.

Have you ever seen people who could get really sticky over the RULES and forget the first rule--LOVE?

Tradition should not kill compassion, or creativity. . .

That is not to say that tradition, in and of itself, is bad.  However, PEOPLE are the most important!

WWJD--What Would Jesus Do?  Love one another.  Love God with your heart, mind, and all your stength.  Love your neighbor as yourself. . . .

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Gift of Extravagant Generosity

In the sermon last Sunday, I gave examples that I know of times when people were extravagantly generous to people they either did not know or to those from whom they could never expect a return.  Isn't that truly the mark of generosity?  When I KNOW someone would never be able to AFFORD to repay the gift or when I can not ascertain that they could ever even find me again to repay me?

I recently had to spend what I considered to be a lot of money on back to school supplies and clothes.  Then I didn't feel like my child was "grateful enough".  In my mind, I was saying "when she has kids, she'll understand what I've done for her. . ."  I also thought, "Hunh!  In my day, my parents wouldn't have understood I had to have that to feel comfortable with my peers--she's so lucky to have me--someday she'll be grateful."  I guess those thoughts and feelings are ok (well, feelings are just feelings, so they have to be ok)--but they do not qualify for Extravagant Generosity--even if I'd bought a Mazerati!!!

I got caught up in how she should be responding to my gracious gifts!  She wasn't doing it right!  Thank goodness our heavenly parent doesn't withhold gifts or judge us when we don't respond with suitable gratitude or enthusiasm.  Thank goodness God is not waiting for us "to grow up" before those gifts even come to us.

The secret is--we could never be grateful ENOUGH or repay ENOUGH nor can we even comprehend the greatness of God's gifts.

We were discussing in Sunday school this same Sunday the gift of "forgiveness".  The Lord's Prayer reminds us that God "forgives our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who trespass against us."

We really can't wait on someone else "to get it" or "to do it right".  If we give--give wholeheartedly.  If we forgive--the same!

Keep on reminding us, O God, to open our hearts--bigger and wider.  Deepen our understanding of your grace and love that we might share it with others!!!!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Breaking Down Walls Ephesians 2: 11-22

"Something there is that doesn't love a wall, that wants it down!"  Wrote Poet Robert Frost.  Unfortunately folks don't all believe that 00--many people try to separate themselves from what they see as the undesirables.  The Great Wall of China--keep others OUT.  The Berlin Wall--keep our people IN.

Now everybody likes "gated" communities--some say for the "exclusivity".

I have waited nearly ten years to have an appropriate sermon to tell the following story.  When it happened it opened my eyes--I hope it will help others.  We lived in the country when my Katye was born.  At age 18 months we were stationed in East Knox County.  My job was busier and I needed to find at least 2-3 days a week sitting for her.  We wound up putting her in a big church Daycare in the area.

In her class was a little boy of about 2.  His name was "Xavier" and he was African - American.  Kaitlin couldn't yet say Kaitlin--so everyone called her "KaKi" and she called this kid "XaXa".  They had a great teacher named Ms. Carolyn.  One day Ms. Carolyn pulled me aside and said she had the best time everyday with KaKi and XaXa.  When one would come in, the other would jump up from the activity they were in and throw out their arms wide and say, "KaKi" and run toward her.  Then she'd open hers wide with a big smile and say "XaXa!"  They'd hug and hug and then they'd move around the room and hug all the others.  Mrs. Carolyn said it gave the group a great start on the day.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Carolyn left in the middle of the year.  A couple of weeks after we had a new teacher, she called me aside to report the same daily ritual.  Equally unfortunate was her outlook on that same event.  She said, "I just wanted you to know that your little girl has been participating in this and I was sure you wouldn't like it."

Where do walls come from?  Where is hate learned?

Until we moved later, Kaki was friends with XaXa everyday.  I encourage each of you with little one or with grandchildren to teach tolerance, love and patience.  Little children don't see color or class.  They approach one another with love and thanksgiving.

My husband's church is next door to a church that was broken into this week.  The vandals left bodily fluids on the church's floors and pictures and assorted nightmares.  When it was discovered who did it, the TBI announced they were 7 and 8 years old.

Tolerance.  Love.  Kindness.  Sow those seeds and you will not be bailing your 8 or 28 year old out of jail.

Blessings!  Pastor Kim

Friday, July 13, 2012

First World Temptations

"First World" is a fairly new term.  We freely discuss the "Third World" and its problems of poverty and underprivilege; however, it is only recently that people have begun to look at the problems that come with too much affluence.

I was teaching my Confirmation class the other night.  It is a class of two thoughtful rising sixth grade boys.  When I asked if they were proud or grateful to be born in America to the families they were--they responded "grateful".  One looked at the other and said, "If we wanted to, we could walk to school every day & never worry about a roadside bomb.  Kids like us in Iran and Iraq aren't that lucky."  We also talked about how great it was they got the Mom & Dad they did & the Church they did (and of course) the Pastor they have  :-)

One of our temptations is to enjoy the fruits of citizenship without tending to the tree of liberty.  Fosdick once preached a sermon on "Parking on Someone Else's Nickel" ($5 now).  How many of us EARNED the freedoms we enjoy?  Is the world a better place because you and I are here?  Is our community a better one because of that?  How about our church because we are active members?

A man sent a letter to Ann Landers.  He wrote, "This is for the woman who was distressed about her son.  I would like to ask her some questions about the boy.  Is he disrespectful?  Has he been arrested for drunk driving?  Has he been kicked out of college for cheating?  Has he made his girlfriend pregnant?  Does he get failing grades?  Does he steal money from your purse?"

"If you can answer 'No' to all these questions, stop complaining.  You have a great kid."  It was signed, "Ralph N., Oakland, CA."

Ann Landers answered this way:  "Your letter showed just how much times have changed.  You said that if a kid today isn't on drugs, doesn't get failing grades, hasn't been arrested for drunk driving, or kicked our of college for cheating, hasn't made his girlfriend pregnant, or stolen from your purse, that he's great.  But you make no mention of acheivement.  There's not a word about integrity, a sense of responsibility, decency, morality or service to others."  Then she added "What a sad commentary on our times.  Good Lord, where is our nation headed, and who is going to lead us there?"

I hope today that we aren't holding our freedoms or our responsibilities to lightly.  May we never forget the "debt of gratitude we owe".  God Bless us everyone!

Friday, July 6, 2012

God Bless Us Everyone!

Sometimes my "pulpit jokes" fall flat.  People didn't really seem to get my  "Zen attitude toward the money problems in this country--My retirement account started off with $50K, Zen it had $40K, Zen it had $30K, Zen. . ."  Of course, figuring out how to talk about giving is tough in any circumstances--people think you've left off preaching and gone to meddling!!!

My scripture for this sermon was 2 Cor 8: 1-15.  Paul was speaking to them of the importance of giving and was not apologizing for it.  He was asking for excellence in their response to Christ.

In these tough economic times, it is tempting to be discouraged and to think we must hoard what we have for our own needs and moan about government spending etc. . .

Ran across another good scripture  1 Timothy 2: 1-4
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all of us to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

On July 4, 2012, we celebrated 236 years as The United States of America.  A government by the people and for the people.  This is an election year folks--another excellent reason to pray for those in authority!

Considering that Paul was up against Nero and his nefarious doings, it was great he could say pray for our rulers and authorities.  (Remember what Nero did to Christians while Rome was burning?)  Paul didn't give us exact instructions what to pray, but his list was broad enough to pray for any situation.  Praying for the salvation for the rulers of the government that was oppressing them  would help to restore peace to their first century lives.

Even in nations where Christians are not facing persecution today, everyone needs to pray for their leaders.  Every day decisions are made that shape our lives for good or ill.

And as those lucky enough to wake up in America, in Tennessee, in Lenoir City, in clean and dry beds--let us say prayers of thanks for those great gifts we have been given.  For those even luckier--to be raised or having been raised in a Christian home.  We have much to be thankful for.  For it has been written "To whom much has been given, much will be required."

Paul said our gifts will be measured by what has been given on our behalf.  I've gotta work on that, how about you?                  Blessings!  Kim

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Godly Gentlemen (and Ladies)

My scripture last Sunday came from the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians.  I was speaking about now is the acceptable time!  If we wait til we are perfect, the church is perfect, or that minister we've got gets perfect (she won't :-)--then we will perhaps lose the time we have and miss out on what God has for us.

This scripture has taken me further down the path of looking at Godly Fathers/Men and Women.  Recently I have been fortunate to do the memorial/funeral services of some "Saints".  I ran across a reading that I used in one service and I quoted part of it Sunday.

John Cardinal, in his book Idea of a University, gives this description of a gentleman:
1.  A gentleman is one who never knowingly inflicts pain on another.  2.  He is one who avoids the clashing of opinion or suspicion or gloom or resentment. 3.  He is tender toward the bashful, gentle toward the distant, merciful toward the foolish.  4.  He never speaks of himself except when compelled.  5.  He has no ears for slander, and never insinuates evil.  6.  He submits to pain because it is inevitable, to bereavement because it is irreparable, and to death because it is his destiny.

I would add to the idea of a gentleman, a lady, a Christian--a lover of others through Christ.

Both one of the persons I recently did a service for and one for whom my husband did on the night of Father's Day, had friends to stand up and say, "I NEVER heard him say a bad word about anybody."  "I NEVER heard him criticize what the church was doing, the pastor, ANYONE."

Wow.  What kind of witness is that?  When you and I get to the end--will someone stand before our friends and family and be able to say "He or she was such a great Christian--always positive, always kind."?  I want that, don't you?

Love is our witness.  When people testify with their mouths that they love Christ AND YET slander their neighbor, their church, its leaders--what will the witness be?  That is not an attitude that ATTRACTS, it DISTRACTS.  Church leaders ask younger people what attracts them to a church--they find it is not a place that has so much a certain style or genre, rather loving people who are in relationship, kind to one another, and forgive one another.

St. Paul and the Corinthians struggled with that.  All humans struggle.  Let us strive for, and work toward, perfection--maturity--now is the acceptable time, if we have not had faith, or if we have held a grudge, refused forgiveness, or simply not been able to refrain from criticizing--let us move forward toward the mark of the high calling.

I am beginning my fourth year at Trinity UMC. I have so loved our time together--our children and youth are growing in grace and our saints continue to work together!  "For God So Loved the WHOLE world. . ."  Amen.  Blessings today, Pastor Kim